Stop Hyping Up Leonard Fournette

It’s becoming pretty clear that the Jaguars made a mistake taking Leonard Fournette with the 4th pick in the draft. Not only is the running back the least important position to draft highly on, but Fournette himself just isn’t a good running back. He’s inefficient, volumed-dependant, and rarely breaks big plays.

The only reason Fournette’s totals are bordering on “good” is because of his absolutely insane workload. Despite featuring in only 13 games, he’s amassed 268 rushing attempts, good for 7th in the league. He was the only back in the top-30 in rushing attempts that played less than 14 games. To garner that many carries, you’d expect Fournette to be a force with the rock in his hands. Not the case. Fournette has been a mediocre running back who’s only produced decent numbers because of his workload.

Check out how inefficient he’s been compared to some of the league’s other most talked about halfbacks, both as a runner and pass-catcher:

When stacked against the league’s elite, Fournette looks subpar at best.

Fournette himself has even acknowledged his inefficiencies, but sort of brushed it off, saying that he was facing “10-man boxes”. He was essentially saying that his quarterback stunk, therefore teams were able to sell out to stop the run. That excuse may have been flown in the first portion of the season, but not the back portion.

Blake Bortles has been a (dare I say) solid quarterback since week 6. I took his stats from weeks 7-16 and calculated them based on a 16-game schedule. Here are those projected stats and the would-be NFL ranks:

Category Statistic Would-be NFL Rank
Passing Yards 4,375 4th
Touchdowns Accounted For 27 10th
Yards Per Attempt 7.71 7th
Completion Percentage 63.6% 11th
Quarterback Rating 93.0 14th

Not bad at all. And that uptick in Bortles’ performance has coincided with a dip in Fournette’s. So I guess it wasn’t the quarterback holding him back, then?

NOTE: Fournette missed weeks 7,8,9, and 15 due to injuries and the bye.

Yards Per Game Week 1-6 Yards Per Game Since Week 6
99.3 63.4

It’s not infrequent that a rookie will get off to a bang in the pros, as defenses and their coordinators are short on adequate game film to prepare properly. I think that’s what happening with Fournette. Teams have figured him out. They’ve figured out that he can’t exploit holes. They’ve figured out that he has no NFL-caliber open-field moves. The sheer speed and power that made him a superstar in college just don’t translate to the pros very well.

Jacksonville should stray away from Fournette in the postseason and look to their backup running back, TJ Yeldon, who’s quietly had an excellent season. The only extended appearances he’s made have been when the game script required Jacksonville to go pass-heavy, as he’s a much better pass-catcher and pass blocker than Fournette. All the while, he’s quietly averaged a stellar 5.1 yards per carry…

I think that most running backs are replaceable. Unless we’re talking about Alvin Kamara or Todd Gurley II, the only first round that I’m comfortable taking a running back is in fantasy drafts. I especially think that Leonard Fournette is replaceable. He offers nothing that the average running back doesn’t, and the stats show it.

 

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